Editorial: Small Business Saturday is much more than a marketing gimmick

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It can be easy amid all the holiday hype to become a little jaded about the efforts to encourage us all to spend, spend, spend. But here’s one such promotion we’re happy to embrace: Small Business Saturday.

Sure, it’s a gimmick like Black Friday and Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday (although we certainly have no quibble with the last one, either). But Small Business Saturday is an opportunity to embrace the locally owned retailers that help make our communities special.

If things went well with the postal service, you received this paper on Friday and could be contemplating your post-Thanksgiving shopping. If so, consider that buying a gift at an independent shop (in person or online) could lead to more interesting or creative options while you’re supporting local entrepreneurs.

Small Business Saturday started as a campaign by credit card company American Express in 2010 to increase exposure for smaller retailers and has been co-sponsored by the U.S. Small Business Administration since 2011. The campaign continues to be lucrative for American Express as well—it provides free marketing tools to retailers and restaurants that accept their cards.

Many business districts plan events around Small Business Saturday, with stores offering specials or longer hours.

The Fountain-Fletcher neighborhood in Indianapolis, for example, has created a passport program that lets shoppers who visit at least 10 merchants enter to win prizes. As part of the event, many stores are doing giveaways—Hidden Peak has free gifts for its first 50 customers, for example—and special deals, like a $100 Savannah SA-110 Mandolin at Arthur’s Music Store.

In Carmel, the Circle Art Gallery will serve as the welcome center for local Small Business Saturday offerings and will provide free cookies and coffee starting at 9 a.m. In addition, free shopping bags “filled with goodies from participating businesses” will be available on a first-come, first-served basis at all of the event’s participating stores.

The Zionsville Chamber of Commerce has extended the one-day event into a Small Business Weekend that is part of its annual Christmas in the Village celebration.

In Greenfield, shoppers can start their shopping at the Small Business Saturday Artisan Market, where they can pick up “Downtown Dollars” for use at area shops.

The Franklin Chamber is hosting an open house on Saturday with free coffee and doughnuts as well as a chance at “chamber cash” to kick off shopping in the Johnson County community’s downtown business district.

You get the idea. Wherever you live in central Indiana, there’s bound to be a Small Business Saturday event near you.

Of course, you can buy from a small business anytime. There’s no need to limit such purchases to Small Business Saturday. But the day is a great reminder of what smaller retailers have to offer.

And an American Express survey finds that 72% of shoppers said Small Business Saturday makes them want to shop and dine at small, independently owned retailers and restaurants all year long. We think that’s great for our communities and the smaller shops that make them special.•

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